I found myself in a conversation with a youngster this week. I was fascinated by his views. He reckons the politicians of today (you can work out who he means) are the last of the old, un-woke, unsophisticated generation, and that once they are out of the way a new breed of world leader will arise. Leaders switched-on to the dangers of climate change, the tragedies of animal abuse, the pointlessness of conflict.
He reckoned the young leaders will ensure equality and understanding. They will break down the artificial barriers of political borders, race, religion, and class, that the old have inflicted upon humanity. A new order will emerge that is fairer, more understanding, more tolerant. And people will eat much more kale.
I hope he’s right about a golden tomorrow, though I have my doubts.
He also said that because there won’t be any more wars, famines, or terror attacks, this year of Covid-19 will be the greatest event that will ever touch his life. A big statement, I thought, for someone who can expect to live another 60 or 70 years.
I hope nothing worse happens to him. Again, though, I must admit to harbouring doubts.
But let’s say he’s right. This disease year is, rolled into one, the fall of empire, the wind of change, the winter before a summer of love. World history for the next generation will be defined by the dark, satanic ages before Covid, and the sunshine days afterwards. It will be much like the way my parents’ lives were punctuated by pre-war and post-war experiences.
Where, then, are the spokespeople of this new world?
Who has sung: we’ll meet again, don’t know when lockdown will allow it? Where is the poet bemoaning: Covid Covid! Quick boys, an ecstasy of facemask fumbling? Who has defiantly urged us to fight infection on the beaches? Who will write that it was the best of times, it was the worst of PPE roll-outs?
If this is an epoch-defining year, then a writer among the young must describe it in prose that stirs the deepest emotions, that etches the starkest images on the mind. Whoever is to write these epics will need a good command of English. Does such a person exist? Can they spell? Can they punctuate?
I won’t be around to see the world in 60 years. I’m sorry I won’t hear the great speeches or read the epic books. Though I’m OK with missing out on the kale.
Word of the week
Overlying. EG: “I fear my pessimism about tomorrow will lie superjacent to my young friend’s optimism”.
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